- Gap pulled a tweet Wednesday afternoon that called for political unity during a highly acrimonious presidential race after the brand immediately received a deluge of online backlash, according to multiple media reports.
- The since-deleted post showed a half-red, half-blue Gap hoodie getting zipped up in a symbol of togetherness between the political parties, with the message, "The one thing we know, is that together, we can move forward." Twitter commentators, along with some high-profile accounts like Chrissy Tiegen, called out the tweet for tone-deafness or poked fun at its suggestion that a hoodie could provide a balm for a divided nation.
- A Gap spokesperson told The New York Times the hoodie is not actually a product for sale, and a company statement to the paper noted that "[we] remain optimistic that our country will come together to drive positive change for all." The snafu indicates brands may want to wait for temperatures to cool before throwing their hat into the political ring.
Gap saw a window to try to bridge the political divide as a tight race between Democratic nominee Joe Biden and President Donald Trump — still undecided at the time of this article's publishing — stretched on past Tuesday night. With purposeful brands continuing to command the spotlight in marketing, the retailer's instinct to contribute to an important national discussion and attempt to unify people makes some sense on paper.
But the simplicity of Gap's tweet clearly rubbed many the wrong way, as did the sentiment that the differences between red and blue voters can easily be papered over. The hammering the brand was subject to, which spurred it to quickly delete its post, speaks to a fine line that marketers must walk in messaging amid a period of great civil unrest, even as consumers put out the call for brands to take more active public roles.
Gap has now deleted this tweet. A spokesperson told me that it was not a real hoodie for sale. pic.twitter.com/CDV18Zaz48— Sapna Maheshwari (@sapna) November 4, 2020
There were warning signs Gap should've heeded, especially considering a victor wasn't called Tuesday and since other brands have recently received a media drubbing for similar efforts. The election this year is like no other, as the pandemic drove up early voting and voting by mail.
As Trump has lost some ground following a closer running earlier in the week, he's pushed for votes to stop being counted in several key states and accused his rival of trying to steal the election. Supporters of the president have taken to protesting at vote-counting sites in response, driving up tensions and the specter of potential violence.
Given the gravity of the situation, brands clearly need to approach their messaging with greater caution or consider not chipping in at all. Oreo last week debuted an ad in line with Gap's, showing two plush dolls — a donkey and an elephant, representing Democrats and Republicans, respectively — getting over their differences to enjoy milk and cookies together, with the tagline, "Life is sweeter when we come together."
Reception to the Mondelez marketer's commercial was less than warm, as evidenced by headlines like "This Oreo ad is a hopelessly baby-brained salute to civility before a contentious election" (Fast Company) and "Oreo's pollyanna plea for political unity…" (Ad Age).
Gap's tweet landed as the retailer, struggling to find its footing during the pandemic, is pushing a holiday campaign called "Dream the Future" that centers on hopefulness. Its advertising this season looks to support a philosophy of "modern American optimism," the company previously said.